Eliza O'Brien – a profile
On 7 July 1827 in Dublin, Eliza O'Brien was found guilty of robbing a person. This being her third conviction she was sentenced to seven years and transportation.
Eliza's convict indent describes her as aged 23, single, Roman Catholic and born in Tipperary. Her physical appearance is 5' 6¼” tall, with a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair and brown eyes. The only distinguishing mark was a scar on the fourth finger of her right hand.
The 1828 Census shows she is assigned to Henry Fleming of Lower Portland Head, NSW.
When Eliza and Edward Duggan applied for permission to marry in 1832, it was noted that she had not been an ideal prisoner of the crown. In October 1829 she was sentenced to six weeks in the 3rd class factory in Parramatta for being absent without leave and found in a public house drinking. Next on the 28 April 1830, another six weeks in the 3rd class factory because she was frequently drunk and absent without leave. Finally on the 25 September 1830 Eliza was returned to the 3rd class factory for six months, for drunk and disorderly conduct.
After that the records show she was assigned to J.B. Raynor in March 1831, then by February 1832 she was in service to Sgt Martin of the 17th Regiment.
The banns for her marriage to Edward Duggan were read at St Mary's Roman Catholic Chapel, Sydney in February 1832. Edward Duggan was a bachelor, 26 years old, per Lord Sidmouth in 1821 and was free by servitude. Eliza's master Sgt Martin consented to the marriage.
Two children were born, Edward in about November 1833 and Elizabeth on Easter Monday 1835. Both children were baptised at St Mary's Chapel.
In October 1835 she was charged with stealing clothes but found not guilty by the courts. Then on 22 December she received her Certificate of Freedom No. 35/1284.
However, her freedom was short lived, because on 21 May 1836, Eliza was committed to stand trial, accused of stealing six glasses and a tablecloth to the value of 2/6d. This time she was found guilty and sentenced to three years at the penal settlement of Moreton Bay. She was given permission to take her child Edward Duggan with her. There was never any more mention of the daughter Elizabeth. No death or burial records have been located.
While at Moreton Bay, there is a hospital report for Edward and it said that he constantly picked his nose. Poor child nothing was sacred.
On 9 May 1839 Eliza was among the last convicts returned to Sydney when the Moreton Bay Penal settlement was closed. This area, became known as Brisbane and was opened to all settlers in 1842.
Eliza's fortunes did not improve on her return to Sydney. She died and was buried on 23 August 1843 by the Rev. Mr McEncroe in the parish of
Then on 25 September 1843, the Rev. Murphy applied to the Colonial Secretary for permission to place Edward in the Roman Catholic Orphanage, stating that his father Edward Duggan, a catholic, is paralytic, unable to afford his child the least support and is at present an inmate of the Benevolent Asylum. The mother also a catholic died on 25 August last, leaving her son in a state of utter destitution. Permission was granted on 29 September 1843.
Unfortunately Eliza was one who did achieve that better life but her son did.